Disgusting

A girl that I work with was bitten by a black widow while working a few days ago.  Not a huge deal since it is SoCal where black widows, among other spider species, are common.  Also not that devastating of a situation seeing as she only sustained swelling and mild discomfort.  The most frustrating aspect of the entire ordeal is that fact that our organization has decided to drastically increase their application of insecticides.  They intend to do so by having our contracted pest control company come to spray in more areas of our building and on a more frequent basis.

I am so disturbed by this response, considering the building itself is old and extremely dirty.  Rather than cleaning and approaching a potential bug problem with a natural, common-sense approach, our management, who is not health conscious in the least, went with the quick fix.  I understand that pesticides and insecticides are household products that countless citizens use in their homes without thought.  However, I am not one of them and I do not appreciate having to be exposed to toxins based on others’ ignorance.  I wish people would educate themselves regarding the risks of exposure to chemicals and be more aware of how they were taking care of themselves and one another.

Fight for farmers and vote with your dollars

I can’t believe that as a 34-year-old, independent working woman, I am about to say…I am bogged down with schoolwork!  As I scroll through endless syllabus pages that outline research papers and a multitude of assignments, I can’t help but think, “What have I gotten myself into?”  In the end, it is a very good thing and I am quite pleased that I am back to school, back to school, as Adam Sandler would say.

Just a heads up to anyone out there that cares (and honestly people, everyone should care about this insanely important issue), the Farm Bill is back on Congress’ agenda this week.  Read about it, sign a petition and have a voice in changing our country’s pitiful environmental policies.

Also, a local community organizer in Ventura County, which is adjacent to our home, wrote this blog post about the heavy use of chlorpyrifos in Ventura County that I enjoyed reading earlier today.  Educate yourself on the toxins that are being applied to the conventionally grown foods that you eat.  I have personally driven past the farms they describe in this article – on any given day you can observe farm workers in hazmat-style suits applying chemicals to strawberries and other crops.  It really makes you sick.

My dad sent me a cool link this morning to a company called The Cornucopia Institute so I thought I would share it here.  This link provides all US-based organic dairy farms with a rating, based on their farming practices and care for their animals.  It is interesting to see that all organic brands are not equal, with vast and shocking differences existing between the highest and lowest ranking names.  What I learned from this ranked list is that the majority of large grocery store chains, who have in-house organic brands, are among the lowest ranking.  These bottom-dweller brands are doing the bare minimum to be in compliance for organic certification and I don’t think I will be supporting them anymore.  Hugo and I chatted about the rankings and were happy to see that the brands we normally buy (Stonyfield, Annie’s Homegrown, Organic Valley, etc.) are at least 4 cow brands!

As a final note, I urge anyone that is reading this to think long and hard about what you put into your body and what kind of planet you want to live on.  I personally don’t want to ingest chemical-coated strawberries and genetically modified sweet corn, swim in algae-bloom ponds next to golf courses with bountiful herbicide run-off, or drink milk from cows who have been fed low quality grain, locked in a dark barn, absent sunlight and love, all while being injected with hormones to increase milk production.  Consider the choices you make at the supermarket as an election – every time you buy an item, you are placing a vote for the company, the farming practices and the animals that fall victim to it all.  I choose to vote with my dollars to support those who care about our health and the earth at large and I sure hope you do too.

 

Major victory for the environment and Dewayne Johnson – Say NO to RoundUp!

If you haven’t seen the headline yet, there was a major victory today for environmental justice and a very sick man.  Monsanto, the agricultural giant who is responsible for the grossly popular weedkiller RoundUp, was ordered to pay $289 million to Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper who developed cancer as a result of being exposed to the herbicide (primary ingredient of glyphosate).  Read the full article here.

This victory hopefully signifies a shift in the wind regarding the widespread and accepted use of this harsh chemical.  Despite multiple scientific studies, and the horribly sick people to prove its harmful effects, companies such as Monsanto are able to weasel their way into the pockets of the EPA and lawmakers.  Glyphosate is still widely used in the US despite being banned in Europe (the EU tends to be much more environmentally progressive and intelligent than the US most of the time).  We can only hope that this landmark case will continue to move our country closer to ridding our farm workers’ and landscapers’ hands from this nasty toxin.

Attack of the Natural Deodorants

All people sweat.  It is the body’s natural way of cooling off.   Some people sweat more than others and not everyone sweats from the same parts of their bodies.  While most sweat from their armpits, others might also sweat from the palms of their hands (me!) or anywhere else a pore is located on your body.  When we experience turbulence on an airplane, I clench Hugo’s hands as if he is my lifeline to safety.  With the anxiety of a bumping flight, my hands sweat like no other, sometimes even requiring me to wipe my hands on my pants.  Anyways, enough gross info about my clammy hands, time to progress to the topic at hand.  Since Hugo happens to sweat heavily and he also has to work 20 hour days at work once or twice a week (with this week’s temps in SoCal reaching well over 100 degrees) , we have cycled through deodorants in a never-ending search for an effective product that is also within our health parameters.

To start, we do not wear antiperspirants for two reasons.  The primary reason being that antiperspirants are made with aluminum, which we intend to avoid at all costs.  Aluminum in antiperspirants has been linked to everything from breast cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.  I don’t care if topical aluminum exposure was only linked to a head cold, I would still avoid it.

The second reason for not wearing antiperspirants is the fact that the goal of antiperspirants is to block your body’s ability to sweat, which is a natural function that should not be stopped.  Sweating plays a necessary role in our bodies by cooling us off and it is completely unnatural to attempt to stop that process.

Through the years, Hugo and I have been involved in a never-ending quest to find an effective natural deodorant.  I took the attached picture of just a few of the many products we have tried in the past six months or so but there have been countless other brands that haven’t made the cut.  We have tried Tom’s products (not that great), Burt’s Bees (also not that great) and Origins No Offense deodorant (expensive but it works a bit better than the others).  We also tried another really interesting product that we found on Amazon called Organic Island Deodorant with Probiotics.  That product is very interesting.  Effective, yes, but it is devoid of scent.  You can mix it with essential oils, which we tried in the small tub version, but in the end, Hugo’s pits are the judge and they gave it a B-.

Finally, a recent gift from my Mom proved to be one of the best smelling, strongest odor-fighting sticks we have found.  As always, Mom to the rescue! Introducing… Nubian Heritage African Black Soap Deodorant.  Per Hugo, it works quite well and he has a pretty damn good opinion regarding natural deodorants because he has probably tried upwards of twenty different brands in the past couple of years.  I am a bit puzzled as to why it received such mediocre reviews on Amazon (as evidenced through my link).  I didn’t read the reviews but it could also be judged by people who are used to harsh chemical products, which undoubtedly work well, however they are absolutely awful for you.

Hopefully this short piece on attempting to cure stinky pits will serve to inform at least one person out there about the harmful effects of aluminum and the many options that serve as healthier alternatives.

Super cool stuff you didn’t know that you NEEDED to know about

I have featured all of the below on my links page but since you might not make your way there, I thought I would put these links out here on front street.  This is just the beginning too.  I am endorsing all of these things solely based on my loving them.  If you have a place, product, or anything else worthwhile that you think should be reviewed, please drop me a line.

Super cool stuff that you didn’t know you NEEDED to know about:

Alaska Airlines – My favorite airline.  When you call, you speak to real human beings, normally in Idaho (yes, that’s a state in the USA). Also, in times of need, they are incredibly gracious with waiving fees and actually taking care of their customers.  Their credit card is excellent too. Great perks, such as a free companion fare every year, and no foreign transaction fees.

Alden’s Organic Ice Cream – Delicious ice cream that is made the way it should be, by respecting the cows who provide the base of your ice cream elixir.  Grab yourself a quart and keep it all to yourself 🙂

Chanel Nail Polish – Because of my job (both my actual occupation and place of employment shall remain unnamed), I need to keep my nails simple and clean.  Chanel Nail Polish in Ballerina is the perfect color; I feel feminine while still maintaining a simple, respectable look.

Coyuchi – Very expensive organic bedding/clothing company but based on the one insanely soft blanket I bought from them, very well worth it.  I am starting a piggy bank so I can buy Hugo and I some new bed sheets from here in 2025.

Living on the Earth – Bill Duesing’s essays speak the conscience of the environmental movement in Connecticut. For years I have clipped and saved them for inspiration. Duesing reminds us that the simplest pleasures of life bring the most personal happiness and the greatest harmony with nature. — Representative Mary Mushinshy, Assistant Majority Leader, Connecticut General Assembly

Perfect Bar – THE BEST PROTEIN BAR EVER!!  I survive on these almost daily.

Pesticide Action Network – Support the work they do for our earth by donating a few dollars, signing their petitions or both.

San Jorge Eco-Lodges & Botanical Reserves – 1,700 species of birds, 65 hummingbird species, 15 waterfalls, 14 unique ecosystems, 7 private birding reserves, 4 unique eco-lodges and not one good reason why you shouldn’t visit this magical place in Ecuador.

Teeccino – Amazing coffee alternative.  Really enjoyable at night when you are craving a hot cup of coffee but aren’t interested in late-night caffeine.  Sprinkle a little cinnamon and stir in a little whole milk.  Delish!

Uncommon Goods – Cool online boutique for unique gifts.

Honey Bee Haven

Just a quick Sunday night bedtime note:  I stumbled across this cool link from the PAN (Pesticide Action Network) website that, in a nutshell, maps pesticide-free/bee-friendly zones throughout the US of A.  What a beautiful thing and what an incredibly sad thing, all at once.  Beautiful because there are people networking to restore our rapidly diminishing bee populations, which have been devastated due to the disgustingly broad and over-used applications of neonicotinoid pesticides/insecticides, which are absorbed by plants and toxic to bees.  Sad because of the very content of that last sentence.  Please do all that you can to learn about the harmful effects of pesticide use both at home and on the farm and support organic farming by voting with your dollars at the super market.  Access the Honey Bee Haven and map your home, if applicable.  Also, for a $50 donation, you can receive one of those cute signs to post with pride.  I plan on getting mine very soon 🙂

Taking care of yourself

I realize as I have begun writing in my new, personal forum that I have only begun to scratch the surface of who I am and where I have come from.  The idea of a blog, to me, stems from a short-story format, which has always been very appealing to me, as both a reader and a writer.  One of my favorite short essay compilations comes from my father’s dear friend Bill Duesing, who authored Living on the Earth.  Bill is an organic farmer in Connecticut with whom my father has been close friends with for over forty years.  My father and Bill share the same love and respect of the natural world and they both honor that love my pouring their hearts into organic gardening for their families.  And so the short story about my food upbringing begins…

I grew up as an only child, and only daughter to be exact, to my two parents in the Nutmeg State.  I can’t even put into words how wonderful these two human beings are.  Every molecule in their bodies is comprised of love, respect, and positivity, all of which they showed me every day as a child and still exhibit to myself and the world around them.  Their 10-acre property is a constant work in progress, a living grocery store of sorts, where my father grows vegetables, fruit, edible flowers, and berries.  He pours his heart into tending to the soil, growing in an organic, sustainable manner, harvesting his crops, and then preparing a meal to feed the family he loves.  And you can feel it with everything he shares.  None of it comes easily or for free but the food that comes out of his kitchen is unlike anything you can buy or reserve a table for anywhere else.

My mother and father taught me the importance of organic foods by showing me as a child and instilling a respect for the earth.  To this day, I am a stark supporter of organic farming, not only for the profound benefits to my family eating this healthy food, but also to support the farming practices for everyone else involved, including our earth.  It hurts my heart to drive by some of the local, conventional-style farms in my community, where I sadly witness farm workers donning haz-mat style outfits to spray toxic chemicals on strawberries or other crops.  It literally makes me sick.  As much as this frustrates me, and goes against everything I believe in to the core, I continue to support good organizations, like the Pesticide Action Network.  They do amazing work and I encourage you to check them out and support them in any way possible.

So, considering this post is titled Taking care of yourself, maybe I should actually get to my point.  I have struggled with keeping myself at my ideal weight, as a lot of people do from time to time.  My affinity for sugar has always been my uphill struggle but I can proudly say that over the past few months I lost 22 lbs!  I was disciplined as I partook in what I dubbed as The Bird Diet.  My self-designed meal plan included the elimination, or 99% reduction, in sugar, dairy, empty carbs (white flour), and overall fun.  I greatly reduced my intake of meat, although I was not a heavy meat-eater to begin with.  In doing so, not only did I feel a lot better but my confidence soared as well.  I finally felt pretty.

I found that during my diet, I was able to truly be successful by always having a plan and implementing my plan on a daily basis.  I stayed prepared so I would not set myself up for failure.  This didn’t come easily but to be honest, it wasn’t insanely hard.  I know a lot of people struggle with this (I mean, weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry, right?) but if I can be of help to anyone looking for guidance, suggestions, or meal plan ideas, please message me. I don’t know very much and I certainly don’t have a degree in nutrition, but I do know the importance of healthy, mindful eating.

Throughout my weight-loss journey, and truly my overall journey to finding happiness with my own body, I relied heavily on a few staple products I found that were both beneficial for my body and satisfying to my tastebuds.  The main, token food item that I ate almost every single day was a Perfect Bar.  These bars are incredibly delicious, well-balanced, and honestly, they’re quite amazing.  Around 8pm at night, I would actually look forward to eating my Perfect Bar in the morning!  I stock-piled them in my refrigerator and packed them in my bag during the day.  The bars impress me because they can be stored in the fridge for an extended period and then taken out for just as long to be mobile with you.  Alright, I just wrote a whole paragraph about peanut butter bars, time to move on 🙂

My diet is paused for a few days as I recover from this 5th knee surgery.  My days thus far post-surgery have been filled with chocolate non-fat frozen yogurt from Stonyfield Organics (no toxic pesticides from Ben & Jerry’s, but that needs an entirely separate blog post) and mushroom risotto (the ingredients for which my lovely husband is at Whole Foods purchasing right now!!).

More to come later about my love and appreciation for organics, my incredible family, and all sorts of other rantings.  As you can see, I tend to jump from one thought to the next rather quickly so I apologize to the reader if this is frustrating or bothersome.  It is just me…honest, raw, and straightforward.  Hopefully you enjoy following along as my brain and heart travel through written word.  And if you don’t like it, buh-bye!!